NFA exec’s suspension over fertilizer scam affirmed

Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has affirmed its earlier ruling suspending the chief of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) in connection with his alleged involvement in the fertilizer fund scam.

In a resolution promulgated on Nov. 10, the anti-graft court said NFA-Soccsksargen director Arthur Aller failed to raise any new valid argument that would warrant the reversal of his 90-day suspension issued on March 13.

Aller’s suspension stemmed from the pending graft and malversation cases, wherein he was as one of the co-accused of former Saranggani governor Miguel Escobar.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2018, the cases stemmed from the alleged anomalous purchase of fertilizer by the provincial government of Sarangani during Escobar’s term as governor.

The ombudsman said the P5-million fertilizer procurement project was awarded to non-government organization (NGO) Workers Cooperatives of the Philippines (WCP) without public bidding.

The awarding of the contract violated Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, anti-graft investigators said.

The ombudsman said the WCP was not qualified to handle a multimillion-peso project.

The fertilizer, which the WCP procured from third-party supplier Sarmiento Trading, was overpriced by P3.865 million, the ombudsman said.

In his appeal, Aller said he must not be suspended as he was not a public official at the time of the alleged commission of the crime. Aller said he was included in the charges as one of the officers of WCP, which is a private foundation, and not as officer of the NFA.

The Sandiganbayan cited Section 13 of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which provides that an incumbent public official should be suspended from office if he is charged with an offense that violates RA 3019 or the Revised Penal Code.

It said the suspension also includes any offense involving public funds or property, or fraud against the government.

The Sandiganbayan ordered the NFA administrator to immediately implement the suspension order and inform the court of the action taken within 15 days upon receipt of the resolution.

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